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Archive for March, 2009

Francis and I and our niece, B, planted potatoes in the allotment yesterday. (B held the potato while I dug a hole. Then she’d drop it in. Perfect.)

We noticed that there are things stirring! The garlic has 1″ sprouts! There are Brussels sprout sprouts! I saw a pea shoot! And tiny runner bean leaves!  We are suddenly successful farmers!

I’ll post pictures soon, I promise. I have to: both camera memory cards are full!

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Here is a checklist I wrote for myself to make sure I remembered the basics when taking phone calls for Big Insurance Company. You can see why after all my training, I’ve only just today started taking actual calls. And any abbreviations that don’t make sense are most likely one of the computer systems I’ve had to learn.

PHONE GUIDELINES

Welcome:
– Good morning/afternoon, you’re through to Adrian at Big Company (on behalf of…).
– How may I help you? (TAKE NOTES)
– Name and membership number?
– Thank you, Mr/Mrs. So that I can help you, can you confirm your DOB/post code?
– Third data protection question.
– Take contact number.
– Check Crest: VIP? Need to be transferred? Underwriting?

– Ascertain what they’re calling about. (TAKE NOTES)

If Claims query:
– Check CLA.
– Telephone inquiry and/or VIEW.
– Check comment codes.
– Check practitioner payment interval.

If Pre-Auth:
– Start claim in ACS.
– Condition eligible? (Check SPINE if not sure.)
– DFA. (When enrolled? Suspect period?)
– History. (Pre-existing?) (Seen GP?)
– Referred to someone? (Check in-network.) (Check cap status.) (Check notes.)
– For what treatment?
– Check policy on ACS.
– Check warnings on ACS.
– Check Crest and PAD notes.
– Check Nexus.
– MIF or GP referral needed?
– Where? (If in-network, check hospital.) (Out of network benefits apply?)
– Offer alternatives if needed. (Alliance Surgical, NHS.)

To finish:
– Advise of claim number.
– Advise of letters and forms and the action they need to take. (GP may charge.)
– Advise any limitations on treatment (10/52, for example).
– Remind O/P and excess allowance, if applicable.
– Check understanding.
– Have I answered all your questions?
– Health @ Hand reminder, if applicable.
– Thank you for calling Big Company.

Wrap-up:
– Make notes.
– Send letters.
– Raise promise if needed.

Oy vey.

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Bedtime Tales

Francis and I have a habit of telling bedtime stories. Mostly, I suggest a character and a name, and he tells the story. (For a while, I was reading him chapters of The Princess Bride, which he has never read, but he tends to fall asleep as soon as he’s horizontal and so we’ve only made it about half-way through the book over ten months.)

I have a little digital voice recorder, and I’ve been meaning to start documenting Francis’s stories, but in the meantime I thought I’d share with you some of the more noteworthy characters we’ve come up with.

– Frogen-hotep: a frog who lives in ancient Egyptian times.
– Fron-chu: a young frog who wishes more than anything to become a professional chef.
– Spackle: a rascally gecko who learns that when he disobeys his mother, bad things happen.
– Oakton: a quirky squirrel.
– Jack: of Jack and the Beanstock fame, but there are all sorts of adventures he gets up to, including those featuring his avaricious mother.

There are several others, but we can’t think of any right now.

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Potato chips are called crisps in England. (You probably know that “chips” are french fries, but sometimes they’re also called french fries, to further confuse the issue.) The English are passionate about their crisps, and they demand a wide variety of types and flavours. But the flavours are so very strange.

Today I was feeling a bit peckish on my morning break and nipped up to the vending machine. (I mostly try to avoid junk food, so this was my first visit.) I was amused to see Ham & English Mustard crisps. “Why not,” I thought, and put in 50p. They tasted and smelled exactly like ham with a hint of mustard. They were good, but seemed wrong… like an apple that tastes of chocolate.

I’ve also tried:
– the ubiquitous Prawn Cocktail (more cocktail sauce-like than prawn-like)
– Balsamic Vinegar & Salt (nicer that plain salt & vinegar)
– Cheese ‘n’ Onion (probably the most popular flavour in general)
– Mature Cheddar Cheese (“mature” when referring to cheddar means “sharp”)
– Oven Roasted Chicken With Lemon & Thyme (delicious!)
– Caramelised Onion & Sweet Balsamic Vinegar (meh)
– Thai Sweet Chili (not spicy at all, disappointingly)

Out of curiosity (and to use a good excuse to eat fried yumminess), I want to try:
– Marmite
– Quite Hot Crisps’s Curry Flavour
– Sausage and Tomato
– Pesto
– Cheshire Cheese & Chutney
– Flame Grilled Steak

A very large crisp company is currently running a new-flavour campaign, and have come up with six new combinations. People are invited to vote and choose which one will be added to their permanent roster. They (none of which I have tried) are:
– Chili & Chocolate
– Fish & Chips (how could this not already be out there?!)
– Onion Bhaji
– Crispy Duck & Hoisin Sauce
– Builder’s Breakfast (bacon, buttered toast, eggs and tomato sauce)
– and, if you’re feeling adventurous, Cajun Squirrel!

If you want plain old potato chips, go for the ones that are labelled “Ready Salted.”

By the way, the oddest thing happened whilst making this post: I googled “English crisp flavours” prior to writing it, so’s not to miss any particularly weird ones, and the first hit was this one. What makes it even more of a notable coincidence is that the author is a woman, only the second female Adrian I’ve met who spells it in the masculine.

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Dreams

Sorry that I haven’t been writing more: working 40 hours a week and doing allotment gardening on the weekends has really eaten up my time and energy. I’m happy, though. I like work, I love the gardening and the subsequent exercise (I welcome the sore muscles and blisters!), and Francis is as sweet as ever. We also are continuing to experiment with cooking: this week we made a mackerel chowder that is to die for. (Look for the recipe on my food blog soon, but we’ll need to try it again before posting a finalised recipe.) Pizza night is going strong on Fridays. Last night’s toppings were mushrooms satueed in garlic and red wine, mozzarella, homemade sauce, and blue cheese; the other pie was finely sliced leeks with goat’s cheese and fresh garlic.

Right now we are tired and grubby from an afternoon on the allotment (I’ll be posting lots about that soon, I just need to get the photos off my camera), and Francis is in the kitchen, making pasta with salmon, smoked haddock, some sort of white fish, and a white sauce with tarragon. I have cheap red wine and a slice of Parmesan to prime my palate.

Anyhow, I just wanted to write about a dream I had a few nights ago. It was one of those rare dreams where I realise fully that I’m not awake, and can have fun in my dreamworld. This has only happened to me a few times, and I adore it. I understand there are techniques to encourage lucid dreaming but I’ve never really tried to make it occur…

I was with a man I didn’t know (an airline pilot, I think) and we were sitting at an outdoor cafe. I looked at my hands, I was holding a wine glass with water and a slice of lemon in it, and was admiring my long, manicured nails. Then I thought “Wait a second, I just cut all my nails very short, for gardening! I must be dreaming!” I said to the guy, “Hey, I think I’m dreaming. Where are we?” I looked around, and saw that we were in a sort of warped version of Tunbridge Wells. All old English brick buildings and English ivy (here they just call it ivy, heh) and a rustic town square. I can’t remember what he said, but I told him that I saw a version of the town I lived in. “I live in Kent with my husband,” I explained. “I think this is my brain interpreting the town in a dream sort of way.”

He seemed nonplussed. I said, “I think you’re part of my dream, is what I’m saying. Do you think that’s possible? Does it bother you that you may simply be a figment of my imagination?” He seemed distracted but didn’t seem to mind terribly. Then, a very cute, fluffy puppy bounded up to me. “A puppy!” I exclaimed. “Could this dream get any better?”

A mish-mash of scenes ensued, but I’m still ticked by my reaction to the appearance of the puppy.

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The Cult of Done.

A mix of unrelated YouTube videos that make a joyful noise.

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